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Ethical Risk Assessment Cocoa

Not many products have similar strong connotations as chocolate. While its negative impact on health is well known, this hardly detracts from its positive image or curbs its consumption. Eating chocolate is linked to enjoyment, happiness and emotions – for children as much as for adults. A jarring juxtaposition is that of our enjoyment of chocolate with children (and cocoa farmers) who farm cocoa beans under challenging and dangerous working conditions. Perhaps the real bitter aftertaste lies within the ephemerality of those negative images.

That said, even short-lived news may pose risks in current times. For a couple of years now, the cocoa industry has worked on banning child labour from cocoa farms. This effort in part aims to avoid reputational risks. However, persistent bad working conditions and low income pose a threat to the livelihood of cocoa farmers, and it has become the interest of all actors in the cocoa sector, along the supply chain, to protect cocoa as a resource itself. Therefore, the cocoa sector has become predestined to work in intersectoral and pre-competitive alliances.

This era-paper sheds a light on the value chain of cocoa including all its socio-ethic and ecological shortcomings, and discusses the numerous initiatives which try to minimize those risks. While the motivations behind the action of members of the civil society, industry and politics differ, there is a joint goal to become a sustainable cocoa sector.

We conducted a policy analysis and summarise collective-action initiatives with the potential to make significant changes in the sector. We also outline potential challenges to this action, including power asymmetries between the actors, missing transparency in regards to financing and the impact of projects and differing expectations of responsibility and accountability.

We conclude that to make initiatives for positive changes in the cocoa sector a success and to prevent potential pitfalls, there is the need for clear assignment of roles, and a consensus of common goals should not preclude critical discussion.